Havana Daydreaming

by John Urban

On location:Cuba. Okay, not yet, but soon enough this blog will dispatch one of our writers to report on the happenings 90 miles south of the southern tip of Route 1.

I, for one, would have several important stops to make in Cuba. Hemingway’s boat? Yes, indeed. High on my list is a trip to the writer’s former home – Finca Vigía – to see his 38-foot Wheeler, Pilar. A stop in town, as well. They say room 511 of the Hotel Ambos Mundos (pictured above) is kept as a tribute to the author. I’ll be interested in finding out.

(Ernest Hemingway’s 38-foot Wheeler, Pilar)

Stop #2. Anywhere on that island nation that is known to serve a good Mojito. A few years back I joined a couple of writer-friends for dinner on Lincoln Road in Miami. That night I had the most amazing Mojito and I’ve been searching for an equal concoction ever since. So far, mine has been a travel guide of lesser Mojitos. Could the issue be that my mind was clouded by having more than one Mojito that night in Miami? Maybe, maybe not. But the search is on and I am certain the journey reaches its successful end on the island of Cuba.


Stop #3. Live jazz-fusion music. When I was in my late teens I saw Chucho Valdés and the band Irakere. Castro let them make their way to the states as part of a diplomatic exchange and they were the opening act for Stephen Stills. A good friend and I were in the first row when a band member tossed me the large beaded percussion drum he’d been playing. I thought I had a souvenir. “Shake it and pass it,” my friend said. I did and I’ll never forget the electricity of that music. Ry Cooder re-ignited that same sense with his album Buena Vista Social Club. Later, friends invited us to see an older Chucho Valdés energize his piano with Latin sounds at an Emerson College performance. This is all but prep for the real thing – seeing jazz-fusion right there in Havana.

Stop #4. The marinas and boatyards. People frequently talk about the old 1950s Chevies and Fords that still bump along the streets of Havana. That will interest me without a doubt. Yet, I also want to search the marinas and boatyards for an old Cubavich sports fisherman. The name Cubavich is a takeoff on Florida-built sport fishing boats built by the Rybovich family near Palm Beach. Bernie Madoff kept a Rybovich (okay, so he had taste). Down in Cuba, they started making knockoffs, boats that became known as a Cubavich. They weren’t made as well as their northern counterpart, but they were good looking boats. Time to check them out.

(Bernie Madoff’s Rybovich Bull)

Stop #5. A Cuban sandwich and a cup of Cuban coffee. The last time I had a “Cuban” sandwich, it was a ham and cheese from Publix market in Florida. That’s roughly equivalent to ordering steak tartare from the canteen truck. Next time, I’m getting a real Cuban. Coffee, too.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Exotic even. Yes, until you consider that the place has been swarming with Germans and Canadians for years. And it’s not not nearly as exciting when you consider that friends have been going in past years, getting in via flights from Mexico, hoping that the Cuban customs officers wouldn’t stamp their passports. And then there are others who cross the Gulf Stream and tie-up their boats, keeping their legal status by not purchasing Cuban goods. Oh, and then there are the masses who have been visiting the island on cultural tours. Wait a minute. Is it possible that this embargo has been lifted because everyone has already been going to Cuba? Maybe.

Yes, but still, there is that search for the Mojito. Sign me up.

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About John Urban

Like his protagonist, John Urban has worked as a college professor and he sails the waters of Southern New England on an old wooden sailboat that he restored. He is a regular contributor to the blog Write On The Water, and his short stories have appeared in the anthologies Seasmoke and Deadfall. The ocean was his desired destination from an early age. As a boy living a landlocked life in Western Massachusetts, nights were dedicated to reading about boats and watching Flipper and weekends were spent boating and fishing, April-to-October, on Long Island Sound. Thoughts of a career at sea ended early after a stint at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, but the circle of life has come around some years later in the form of the fictional world of Steve Decatur. Urban lives just outside Boston and spends his summers near the waters edge of Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound. A Single Deadly Truth, published on Amazon Kindle, is Urban's debut novel. As second Steve Decatur mystery, Masters of Rhode Island, is due out later this year.
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One Response to Havana Daydreaming

  1. I have long wanted to visit Cuba. I love Art Deco architecture, Hemingway, and the tropics. Maybe this year I’ll actually get there. Good post.

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